David Crane's farewell letter to NRG employees

Power Player

David Crane's farewell letter to NRG employees

"That the clean energy future is going to happen is, at this point, inevitable, but as we have seen with my own personal experience, timing is everything and the earth, as we know it, is running out of time," says NRG's outgoing CEO, David Crane.

[Editor’s note: Yesterday, David Crane officially stepped down as CEO of NRG Energy, a visionary CEO whose passion and commitment to clean energy exceeded that of his company’s shareholders. While the letter below was intended for NRG employees, we found it important and newsworthy to reprint, as it represents a rare, personal public statement from a departing CEO of a Fortune 200 company, among the World’s Most Admired. Crane’s previous missives to employees, shareholders and others (see here and here, for example) have been must-reading in energy circles. In this one, he captures the voice of a business executive, committed as ever to a clean-energy future. — Joel Makower]

Dear NRG Colleagues:

During the challenging market environment we faced together over the past several months, I was always well aware that a personal outcome for me might be my departure from the company and indeed, yesterday, Jan. 4, was my last official day as an NRG employee.

Yet it never ever occurred to me over these past months that I might not get a chance to say goodbye to you personally and face to face, the way goodbyes are meant to occur, or even by emailed departure memo, as has always been the custom for exiting NRG employees. But that is the situation I find myself in now.

While emphatically not of my choosing, it almost certainly is for the better that I will not have had the opportunity to say goodbye. I would have made a mess of it, burdened as I am by the sense of loss and separation from all of you. More than that, I am impacted by the knowledge that I let you down. I did not fulfill my end of the bargain. I did not succeed in leading you, as I said I would, to making NRG that shining city on the hill, that beacon of light in the energy industry that would guide the way for the rest to follow.

Remember this: I let you down; you did NOT let me down

I emphasize this point because some observers, since the public announcement of my termination, have suggested to me that NRG's ambition may have been hindered by a reluctant or recalcitrant employee base, unalterably resistant — as the supposition goes — to reaching for the clean energy future.  

That is simply not true. 

I find myself repeating, time and time again, that I had all 11,000 NRG employees with me every step of the way and that indeed all of you "had my back" each and every day of my tenure at the company. There was no CEO on the face of earth who is as proud as I am, or who was as well served by, the people I worked with at NRG. 

So, I say thank you ... profoundly ... thank you.

To all of my colleagues who believed, as I did, that NRG was truly a purpose-driven company, trying to build a great and value enhancing business for our shareholders while saving the planet for our children, I say to you: keep the faith. I was in Paris last month; the world is moving and the global business community is moving with it. The dream has not died with my separation from the company; the dream lives on in each of you! 

To all of my colleagues who had their doubts about my outspoken advocacy on climate change and a variety of other topics, thank you so much for your loyalty and faithful service to me and to the company. I am sorry to the extent I ever said things or did things that you were not comfortable with, but I hope you appreciate that the steps I took, the new frontier of the energy business that I pushed the company into, were then, and are still now, in the long-term best interest of the company's employees, its shareholders, its customers and the earth we all inhabit. As a company that aspires to growth, there is no growth in our sector outside of clean energy; only slow but irreversible contraction following the path of fixed line telephony. 

So, in closing, let me tell you something that may seem out of place in the context of the indelible sadness of this message: I am optimistic about what lay ahead for all of you. You will achieve great things.

For my part, I intend to continue to do everything within my power to bring about the clean energy future as fast as quickly and as completely as we can achieve it. That the clean energy future is going to happen is, at this point, inevitable, but as we have seen with my own personal experience, timing is everything and the earth, as we know it, is running out of time. We need to act now.

Whatever I do, however I choose to proceed, it is hard for me to imagine that it will compare in terms of personal impact on me as has my life experience at NRG. As it happens, I was let go during the same week that I started at NRG 12 years ago — that's 4,383 days roughly — and I want you to know I tried my hardest each and every one of those days to make us a better company. 

It was a lot of work, but as I turn this page on my career, I don't regret any of it. Working with all of you to accomplish all that we accomplished was the greatest experience of my life. We came up a little short this time, but we will not the next.

Stay safe.

David Crane